Having been moved from its traditional January/February slot for the first time, the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is set to kick off in Egypt later this week marking the first time the tournament will include 24 teams.
In an interview with Will Westcott, Head of Business Development – Africa at Betgenius, SBC got the run down on the main impacts the changes could have on African sportsbooks, the anticipated betting trends for 2019, and the roll that increased coverage will have on in-play betting.
SBC: The 2019 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will take place in the summer for the first time. What impact will this have on the continent’s sportsbooks?
Will Westcott: African sportsbooks will have welcomed CAF’s decision to move the tournament to the summer months with open arms.
Without the all-consuming Premier League to compete against, the tournament will have the opportunity to hog the spotlight with prime TV slots and blanket media coverage.
Fixtures are scheduled every evening and on the weekends, and there are more football superstars in the competition than ever before, such as golden boot winners Salah and Mane.
The decision to expand the tournament to include more teams and matches should also provide a major boost to turnover. Competitions like the Africa Cup of Nations are scarce, so fan fatigue won’t be a factor and engagement should be high with every match.
SBC: What action can African operators take in terms of trading to maximise their revenue?
WW: Football fans love to get behind their own country in international tournaments, even if their chances are slim. Home-team bias has been prevalent in outright betting in the lead up to the tournament, and this will continue to be the case on a match-by-match basis thereafter. More often than not, these types of bettors are not price sensitive so having the control over your trading book to raise margin on certain market-types will prove a great way to boost profits.
Thanks to blanket TV coverage of every match, in-play will be massive, too. African sportsbooks can expect in-play to make up a growing proportion of turnover this summer, so offering a low friction live betting product with engaging markets, fast settlement and few suspensions is vital.
Then because many African stars are gaining plaudits on the global stage, player performance markets relating to these individuals will also generate great activity. By gamifying outcomes like the number of shots or whether a card will be shown for a single player, these types of markets create engaging micro storylines which adds to the viewing experience.
SBC: Large scale attempts at customer acquisition are a mainstay in the build up to major tournaments like AFCON. What is the key to ensuring results?
WW: Tournament punters are a high-value demographic so it’s no surprise that sportsbooks invest heavily in acquiring new football customers. Local tournaments generate a digital media buzz, with the locals checking their smartphones and social media to stay up-to-date.
For sportsbooks, there is a huge opportunity to exploit these channels in order to increase their brand exposure to a highly receptive audience. By having access to specialist technology which harnesses real-time audience behavioural data, sportsbooks can run targeted marketing campaigns that also integrate live football performance stats and real time odds to maximise engagement. Over a decade of running these campaigns has enabled us to develop a proven strategy that delivers the lowest cost of acquisition for the highest number of new customer sign-ups.
SBC: Based on the current sports betting landscape in Africa, what trends in bettor behaviour will we see this summer?
WW: Traditionally, major tournaments deliver goals by the hatful. At last summer’s World Cup, there was only one 0-0 draw. So in Africa, where bettors have a tendency to bet on goal-based markets already, the overs on goal lines will be popular.
The old-school accumulator will continue to be a major source of turnover as the tournament unfolds however, similar to the 2018 World Cup, I expect innovative same-game multiple products like BetBuilder to remain in high demand. Several of our African customers have integrated this product and it will form an important part of their offering during AFCON.
Products such as this are an exciting way for a sportsbook to maintain engagement all the way through to the final whistle on 19 July. With the opportunity to bet on multiple outcomes on a single game, like Mane to score, over 2.5 match goals and a penalty to be awarded, customers can enjoy generating their own customisable long-odds accumulators even when the games don’t come as thick-and-fast.
SBC: And finally, we can’t leave without asking – who wins the tournament?
WW: With the standard of African football so high and the draw so competitive, that isn’t a straight-forward call. I’ve already set out how Nigerian sportsbooks can win this summer and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Nigerian national team followed suit, unlike the under 20 side who disappointed at the 20’s World Cup last month. I like the chances of the Super Eagles at 10/1.
But irrespective of the champions, it’s set to be an exciting summer for African fans and sportsbooks alike. Once we’re underway, anything can happen. Just look at Zambia in 2012.